I currently have a small claims suit against the Water Company. Last
summer the water company was working on my street fixing leaks on the
water main. The water co claim they never interrupted service - I am
usually at work, so I can no say then did or did not. Less then 48
hours after the city's repair the water main leading from the meter to
my house burst causing us to have to dig up our drive way to get to the
pipe. According to the water company, they claim that we responsible
for the damage since it is on our property. I understand from the city
engineer that there are proper procedures for shuting down/turning on
water to protect residential plumbing, although I cannot find any
articles/documentation on this.
Also, I have been reading about water hammer, and the cause happens
when the water supply is turn-on/off to quickly changing pressure in
the pipes. I am sure that their repair created this issue in the
water main that lead to the burst and damage to our property. Can
anyone provide me with info or point me in a direction that I could get
information that could support our theory in court? Also, if you have
an explaination of possibly causes, I am all ears.
Oh, most assuredly it can happen. And they know it.
But why admit it to you?
If service (flow) is suddenly restored in a Main,
there is not only the static pressure to contend with,
but the inertial velocity of the huge slug of
(incompressible) water hurtling down the Main.
I've seen other residential service failures like yours
(one involving a service 500 ft long which the city
convinced the owner to pay for excavating and replacing!).
after restoring service too rapidly to a dry Main.
(No, you can't call me as a witness:-)
Since you weren't there, how can you be "sure"? Sure, there's the
factor of near proximity in time, but how can you prove to the
satisfaction of a judge (even in small claims) that it is really their
fault when (since you're saying you're already in court) they haven't
been amenable to approaching them for at least cost-share, they're
going to show up and claim it is just that, a coincidence your line
failed when it did.
Best I can see would be if you can get some neighbors to be able to
swear the water was, in fact off, but unless you're not the only one w/
damage, I think it will still be very difficult to prove the case that
they were the proximate cause. Mabe you'll get lucky and get a lenient
judge who has some leeway to ajudicate shared blame, but I wouldn't
count on it.
You say you are "sure", then you want support for your "theory". As it
stands, it is a theory until you have proof. Do you have the broken pipe?
Has anyone looked at it to determine cause of failure? How old is the pipe?
What condition was it in? Where did it break? What material is the pipe
made from? Did it break at a kink, thinned out section? bend? Was your feed
line physically touched by the repair crew?
If the water company caused the break, why did it take 48 hours to appear?
How was it noticed? Drop in water pressure, leak at the street?
Let's say the normal pressure for you area is 50 psi. Copper can withstand
much more than that. probably over 500 psi Let's just say there was a
pressure surge that brought it to 100 psi. If your pipe was broken at 80
psi, I'd have to say it was corroded and not capable of taking what is
considered normal under certain circumstances. .
Unless you can get expert testimony, I think you may have a tough time
collecting on this. You need the preponderance of evidence and so far, you
have only a theory.
The good news is that I do have expert testimony as well as testimony
from my neighbors.
The pipe burst was at a 90-degree joint, it is a pvc pipe, and my house
is about 7 years old. The pipe has been dug up a retained as evidence
to show the burst and the condition of the pipes, which is not old or
corroded. The joint broke on the water supply side, indicating the
water pressure surge came from the water main, versus on the side
leading to the house. We do have very high water pressure where we
live, it is around 100 psi, and pressure reducer gage going into the
The repair was completed around 5pm on a Friday, and water was gushing
up from my driveway at 8am on Sunday, so I am assuming it broke before
then, but took that long before it was visable gushing from the
If its small claims go for it, all you have to loose now is the court fee
and a little time. (unless you're paying that expert). You might even win.
Judges can be unpredictable and often side with the little guy.
Even if the water never was turned off, pressure fluctuations would be
expected. even if the pressure was higher afterward, I'm sure they can
document that it was within spec. If they had seriously exceeded limits,
you would not be the only victim. The street work probably did influence
the failure of your pipe but I don't see the city as liable. What they did
was reveal a latent defect.
The way I see it is PVC under a driveway was an accident waiting to happen
and an elbow would be an expected stress point. Compaction of the driveway
fill at the time of construction or from cars driving over it afterward
could have weakened the thicker plastic elbow leaving it as a failure
waiting to happen. A crack in the plastic can sit for years but if just a
little more pressure hits it can split wide open. Furthermore, turbulence
can scour the inside of a pipe and remove material or setup acoustic
vibrations that ultimately weaken the joint. An elbow especially one with
some glue drips inside would be close to the worse case for this. I know it
is a well known effect in copper but not sure how common in PVC but I
wouldn't expect it to be immune.
Unless your expert is a materials failure analyst and you cross section the
pipe (or whatever is appropriate), that broken pipe is just evidence that
the pipe did break and where but not how or why.
The facts of the failure are one thing, its how the judge sees liability
when a circumstantial cause and effect is argued and if those circumstances
constituted negligence on anyone's part. That I don't know.
I don't think you really have a case.
Water hammer can be a problem, but tends to be a fatiguing issue, rather
than a one-off "bang". If the company restoring water to your pipes caused a
rupture, the most likely scenario is that your pipes were sub-standard to
To extrapolate the situation, just say you have a rusting water heater. The
utility needs to interrupt your supply (as is often required), and the
pressure surge ruptures your heater. The company is liable for neither the
heater, or any damage the water creates. I think this is a similar situation
Save your money on lawyers, and get a landscaper IMHO....
i'm a property owner in buffalo ny.
by your descriptions, it unfortunately sounds like turning on and off
of the water main service has prematurely revealed a pending failure of
the plastic component or its installation.
[other mystery items of question might be arguably the type of soil,
gravel or material surrounding the pipe, and driveway weight loads over
the years [an unknown]. what is the water pressure of the main? would
the pipes throughout your system normally handle this?]
we have underground a connection to the main in the street, then a
curbside underground shutoff, then the pipe continues to the basement
where the water meter is located.
about 5 years ago it cost us $5000 to put in an underground replacement
service of 1" copper completely from the street main to the house.
buried copper pipe here goes 4 feet underground because of the winter
frost line. we replaced it because a previous owner or plumber didn't
properly run the water underground to prevent winter freezing, only
under the floorboards of the at grade front half of the building.
jennifer email@example.com wrote:
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